‘80% of the parenting we do comes down to role modelling.’

charlotte robertsonYou Tuber and Co-founder of leading online safety organisation, Digital Awareness UK, Charlotte Robertson spoke to parents about how to be tech role models for their children

To mark Safer Internet Day 2021, YouTuber and expert on digital awareness Charlotte Robertson led a GDST Talk about how to set a healthy example to children in their use of technology. Nearly a thousand parents across the GDST family signed up to watch Charlotte discuss ideas such creating healthy boundaries, making more meaningful use of  screentime, and avoiding the phenomenon of ‘sharenting’.

A poll at the start of the presentation showed a 50-50 audience split on whether or not they felt they were good tech role models to their children. For those who feel they’re not, it’s not hard to improve your habits. ‘Use your everyday values to guide you in how you approach technology with your children: kindness; resilience; exercising good judgement; thinking critically,’ explains Charlotte. ‘All of these aspects are as applicable to the online world as they are to real life.’

“Try to limit the amount of time that Technology detracts from fundamental wellbeing activities such as sleeping, eating, exercising and socialising”

This is particularly relevant given that most of the challenges our young people face online are what Charlotte calls ‘old world issues’: self-esteem, bullying, the need for validation. As parents and educators we need to ask ourselves: does technology help our youngsters to overcome them, or does it intensify the problem? 

We cannot deny it: technology has been an indispensable tool that has helped us through the past year, and on which children will rely as they go about building skills for their future careers. What we can do though, says Charlotte, is differentiate between gratuitous screen time, and meaningful engagement. If your child can use their screens to develop a skill – creating an animation, writing an email to their cousin, coding, using pinterest to curate one of their interests – you can rest assured that this is worthwhile and forgo the guilt. This can also be a useful way of responding when your child wants the latest app, claiming that she is the only one in her peer group who doesn’t have access to it. It’s worth engaging with your child about why they want it. If it’s because everyone else has it, that’s not a good enough reason. If it’s to make up dances or create virtual artwork, you may consider this a more worthwhile use of tech. 

“Young people are starting to think more critically about their online presence: make sure you can explain or justify why you have posted something, especially if it involves your children”


“When it comes to ‘sharenting’, we now have a generation of young people thinking critically about their images being shared.’ @DigitalSisters #GDSTTalks #techrolemodel #digitalheath #digitalwellbeing #SaferInternetDay #SaferInternetDay2021 #SID pic.twitter.com/DrTBeubObA

— GirlsDaySchoolTrust (@GDST) February 8, 2021

Since children are more aware of the role of technology in their lives, they are also more aware of their own online presence. To set the tone, says  Charlotte, parents can avoid ‘sharenting’. That is: posting about your children online without their consent. Setting the tone might also include communicating how you are using your own devices, to avoid accusations of hypocrisy. If you are using your phone to check in on a grandparent or to organise a food delivery, tell your children this, so they know you’re not on facebook. Acknowledge failures and blurred lines between acceptable use and occasional broken rules: a pandemic is not the time to be non-negotiable on the tech that’s helping us through it. After all, where would our social lives be without the mandatory weekly zoom quiz? 

As to the classic question of how much screentime to allow your children, a good starting point is to think about those activities that should be central to your family’s wellbeing: eating well; getting good quality sleep; exercising regularly and socialising. How much time is technology taking away from this? If a phone in the bedroom is preventing your child sleeping at bedtime, that’s an indication. If your child would prefer to be on her phone rather than do some physical activity, that’s a sign too. It’s easy to fall into bad habits. If you are looking at your emails at dinner, you are not eating mindfully. ‘As a rule,’ concludes Charlotte, ‘screens are not inherently bad: it’s what they take away from that matters.’

Watch the full recording of Charlotte’s video below:


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